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March 15, 2013 at 6:45 AM

2013 Prospect Previews: Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo

Position: Pitcher
2012 Teams: Salem Red Sox/Portland Sea Dogs
2013 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 24

Strengths: Workman’s fastball and cutter combo give him a strong foundation for attacking hitters. The heater sits 91-93 mph and can touch up to 95 with frequency when working as a starter. It shows late life when the pitcher is finishing the delivery and hitting targets down in the strike zone. Workman has also made some strides honing his fastball command over the course of the last season. He works elevated in the zone far less often, while also showing more ability to throw the offering to both sides of the plate. This improvement has pushed the grade to about average. Workman’s best pitch is a high-80s cutter that grades as solid-average-to-plus. The righty feels the offering well, creating tight spin and sharp break via consistent wrist rotation. The late breaking nature of the cutter makes it very deceptive, especially against left-handed hitters. It tends to miss bats or produce weak contact, with the projection to continue to do so at the major league level. Workman is very aggressive on the mound. The pitcher will come right after hitters and avoids falling into ruts of nibbling. His calm demeanor enables him to stay level in all situations and he understands how to deal with failure.

Development Needs: Workman is not the smoothest of throwers as there is effort and jerk in the delivery. He creates good velocity, but expends extra energy in doing so. Workman can wear down over the course of a start and lose the crispness of his stuff, especially after laboring in an inning. In order to sustain success as a starter he needs to be efficient and space out his pitches per inning. The jerky nature of Workman’s mechanics can also create issues with keeping his arm in slot. During these instances, he becomes inconsistent with his fastball command and has trouble keeping the ball down. He will always need to be cognizant of maintaining his delivery during outings. Workman’s 75-77 mph curveball shows flashes of deep break and hard bite, but the offering will go in and out on him. The righty can wrap his wrist during the release, which causes the pitch to roll. He needs more consistency staying on top of the ball for the curve to grade better than average. Overall, the 24-year-old profiles as a reliever at the major league level, where he can achieve a ceiling of a set-up man in his peak.

2013 Outlook: Workman progressed into the upper minors last season and got his first taste of Double-A to close out the year. He’ll return to the level to prove he can continue to progress over the course of an extended stretch this season. Given the age, Workman’s task is to fine tune the existing arsenal and show he can be more consistent with his mechanics. I feel the stuff is there for the righty to round into a contributing major leaguer. There’s an element of power to his pitching style, which can really play up in short bursts. It makes sense for now, and likely for all of the 2013 season, to continue stretching Workman out as a starter to give him as much repetition as possible. I see him passing through Double-A in the role, with a conversion to the bullpen likely as he proves to be closer to major league- ready. 2013 is a year for Workman to show he is moving towards the final stages of his minor league development. While not a Top 10 prospect, he can further cement his status by proving a seventh or eighth inning reliever projection is within his reach.

Position: Pitcher
2012 Team: Portland Sea Dogs
2013 Projected Team: Portland Sea Dogs
Opening Day Age: 23

Strengths: This right-hander possesses the frame and size about which development staffs dream. Ranaudo has also been growing into that frame over the last couple of years, improving upon his strength and also becoming more solidly built. The 23-year-old’s arsenal starts with his fastball. He’s a loose thrower that can generate easy velocity when his delivery is streamlined. Sitting 92-93 mph, the heater shows arm-side run and downward plane in the lower tier of the strike zone. Ranaudo can reach back to touch up to 95-96 mph when feeling the need to grab extra as well. The pitch at times really explodes out of his hand, with late life and strong finish. The best, and most advanced, piece of his repertoire is a hard 78-82 mph curveball. Ranaudo is adept at creating tight spin and hard snap when dealing the pitch. It is a very deep offering, with strong shape and the bite to miss bats or freeze hitters. The curve grades as plus. By all observations, the righty is very focused and dedicated to his craft. He typically stays composed on the mound through all situations. The drive is there to be a successful pitcher.

Development Needs: Ranaudo regressed with his fastball command in 2012. He had considerable trouble keeping the offering down and consistently throwing downhill. The righty’s command issues stemmed from a messy delivery. Ranaudo has yet to master repeating it or keeping in the necessary rhythm and pace. His front shoulder typically opened very early during his delivery, which caused a chain reaction of losing his arm slot, landing off-balance, and lacking enough finish to get any type of leverage. His fastball velocity also suffered due to his arm dragging, which left the pitch very flat. Overall, Ranaudo lacked his previous looseness and was too rigid last year, at times appearing robotic. The 23-year-old must improve upon the consistency of his mechanics and find his optimal timing. His stuff really suffers without it. His path as a starting pitcher hinges on making strides cleaning things up and learning how to use his size to throw downhill. Ranaudo’s changeup has only shown as below-average thus far, needing work syncing his arm speed and turning the ball over. It remains to be seen whether potential growth with the pitch is tied into delivery improvements or he just doesn’t feel it.

2013 Outlook: Ranaudo scouted as a different pitcher last year. There were some injuries, including a groin strain in spring training that delayed the start of his season and “shoulder fatigue” that ended his year after 37 2/3 innings. I had pegged the righty for making strong gains in 2012. It turned ugly though, and his development went backwards. This season Ranaudo will be tasked with proving he can stay healthy and showing improvement with the consistency of his delivery. He’ll return to Double-A to begin the season. Frankly, assessments are cloudy right now on the pitcher and it’s difficult to know what to expect after last season. Ranaudo has the raw stuff to profile as a third or fourth starter, but the delivery hurdles have created a big enough gap to get there that things are very much in flux. 2013 is a big year; one which could see him back on track as a potential big league starter or one which could hint at a future in the bullpen. The scouting in Double-A will be a big tell and likely bring things into clearer focus.

Photo Credits: Brandon Workman and Anthony Ranaudo by Dave Letizi

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen